Ask The Experts: Kitchen Sculleries & Walk-In Pantries

kitchen scullery

Thinking of including a scullery in your new kitchen? Check out what our panel of Kitchen Design Consultants from around NZ have to say about sculleries and walk-in pantries.

For years it’s been drilled into us that open-plan living is the way to go, breaking down the walls that have traditionally demarcated our living spaces to create a single, light-filled room where the whole family can be together and hang out.

Strange then that sculleries – seemingly an antidote to this wall-less trend – are making a comeback, and in fact are now one of the most requested features by homeowners wanting to install a new kitchen.

It’s likely that the much of the new-found popularity of these little rooms is owed to the prevalence of the open-plan environments that we now all crave. Where else do we put all the ‘stuff’ we don’t want everyone to see? But the humble scullery is so much more than a dumping ground. It’s a prep area, it’s a secondary kitchen, it offers extra storage, and it’s a refuge for cooks requiring quiet time from the rest of the family.

In light of its resurgence, Mastercraft Kitchens asked four of our designers from around NZ – Christine Dawson (Tauranga), Michael Mancer (Whanganui), Nikita Woodhouse (Whangamata) and Peter Healey (Palmerston North) – some pertinent questions about the humble scullery. First up, let’s clear up what the difference is between a scullery and a butler’s pantry…

The scullery below was designed by Christine Dawson and created by our Tauranga team

Sculleries and Butlers Pantries – same or different?

All four designers agree that the principal difference, apart from size (a scullery is bigger than a butler’s pantry) is that a scullery would normally have a sink, whereas a butler’s pantry would not. It was best summed up by Nikita, who said that, traditionally, a butler’s pantry was a utility room dedicated to the storage of food and tableware and used for plating food before service. A scullery, on the other hand, is a totally separate room from the kitchen that is mainly used for cleaning up, and would have a benchtop and a sink.

Does size really matter?

For the sake of this guide, we focussed the rest of our questions in relation to sculleries. Size was the next topic. Although widths vary, depending on the available space, the consensus was that a minimum depth of 1500mm was needed to allow a comfortable working space.

“A decent amount of space should be allowed for when planning for scullery,” says Nikita. “Ideally you would have no less that 1500mm in depth, to allow for a standard size benchtop and space to work behind it, and upwards of 2000mm in length.” Peter agreed on the depth, but said a family sized scullery, with room for drawers, cupboards and a decent benchtop would need 4-5 metres of wall space to work well.

This scullery was designed by Michael Mancer and created by our team in Whanganui

Some scullery essentials

As far as what should be included in a scullery, Christine says that it should definitely have a sink – which doesn’t have to be huge – and some vertical storage, open shelf storage, a set of drawers, lots of bench space, plenty of power points, and easy flow from the main work area in the kitchen. “If there is enough room, I like to include an under-bench fridge, a wine fridge, or a dishwasher,” she says. “I also think some daylight is important, by way of a window or through a wall or ceiling. If the scullery has a wide opening, then this can provide enough light.” 

Consider how your scullery will be lit

Nikita agrees that natural lighting is key to good scullery, whether it be a window or a skylight. “In a scullery where this isn’t possible, good task lighting is absolutely necessary. LED strip lighting under the upper units not only provides good task lighting, but it is a nice feature at night time.” She adds that a scullery can provide extra bench space for small appliances, without intruding on the main kitchen area, and is also the perfect place to hide dishes when entertaining. Peter also tries to find space for a microwave in his sculleries.

This ‘hidden’ scullery was designed by Nikita Woodhouse and created by our Whangamata team

All the clever features

In an ideal world, you’d try to fit all of these suggestions into your scullery, leaving your main kitchen free to cook in and entertain your family and guests. Being such a small area, clever storage systems are paramount. “There are lots of under-bench pull-outs, blind corner units, carousel units for corners, and racks for bottles and stemmed wine glasses on the market these days,” says Christine. “There are also mechanisms for helping pull high storage areas down to an easier height.”

Open shelves are a must

Michael offers two simple and cost-effective space-saving tricks… “1. Reduce the bench depth to 300mm or 400mm and, 2. Keep the shelving open. This will help to give the illusion of more space.” Nikita echoes Michael’s advice, saying that in a very small space it is better to have open shelves below and above the bench, because it allows you to access what you need without having to open a cupboard door or a drawer in an already busy area. 

This full-length scullery was designed by Peter Healey and created by our Palmerston North team

Door, or no door?

Having a door is handy because you can close off the scullery when it’s not in use, or hide all any mess or dirty dishes after a dinner party. If you do opt for a door, every one of our four designers recommend installing a cavity slider, for obvious reasons. Also becoming popular are barn doors, which make a real feature out of your scullery entrance.

Go blend or go bold?

Finally, should you try to blend your scullery in with the rest of the kitchen décor, or make it stand out? In an ideal world, it should match, say the designers. But again, cost comes into the equation. This is a hard-working space that most people will rarely see, so prioritise spending your money on tough, practical materials, and not trying to make it look exactly like your main kitchen out front.